The Cubs have fired manager Mike Quade, the team announced Wednesday.
Quade managed the Cubs for just over a year, taking over when Lou Piniella left midway through the 2010 season and then leading the team to a 71-91 finish in 2011. Quade was close with former general manager Jim Hendry, and his future was always in doubt once Hendry was fired and ultimately replaced atop the Cubs' baseball hierarchy by Theo Epstein.
The Cubs said that Epstein traveled to Florida on Wednesday to tell Quade in person that he will not be coming back. Quade's contract ran through 2012.
Quade, a 54-year-old baseball lifer, was something of a controversial choice last winter, with many Cubs fans favoring Ryne Sandberg. Sandberg, a Hall of Fame second baseman with the Cubs, left the organization and spent this season managing the Phillies' Triple-A team in Lehigh Valley.
Sandberg now becomes the fan favorite to replace Quade, but Epstein said in a press release that the new manager "must have managerial or coaching experience at the major-league level." Sandberg has neither.
Terry Francona, who worked under Epstein with the Red Sox and won two World Series, is a name that will come up. Some baseball officials were predicting Francona to the Cubs even before Quade was officially out, but some who know Epstein seriously doubt that an Epstein-Francona reunion will happen.
In his statement, Epstein praised Quade for his "passion, knowledge of the game, commitment and integrity." But that wasn't enough for him to keep the job.
"While Mike is clearly an asset to any organization and any major-league staff, [general manager Jed Hoyer] and I believe the Cubs would benefit long-term from bringing in a manager for 2012 who can come in with a clean slate and offer new direction."
Epstein said the search process will begin immediately.
"We are looking for someone with whom and around whom we can build a foundation for sustained success," Epstein said. "The next manager must have leadership and communication skipps; he must place an emphasis on preparation and accountability; he must establish high standards and a winning culture; he must have integrity and an open mind; and he must have managerial or coaching experience at the major-league level."